WAACs and Nurses Arrive in Africa
Officers' Mess Undergoes Quick Change
St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, Florida, 24 December 1942
By Harold V. Boyle
Allied Headquarters in North Africa—(AP)—The arrival of 31 American Army nurses and five WAAC officers has created a feminine oasis at Allied headquarters, where until now the art of war has been practices on a strictly masculine basis.
The appearance at the officers' mess of the young women had immediate repercussions.
When they first entered the long private dining room, looking as neat and fresh in their military garb as a Monday morning wash, all conversation halted momentarily. Heads of generals and second lieutenants alike turned as if they were on the same pivot to watch the women march a little self consciously to their table.
Grey haired colonels who usually gnaw their rations in grumpy austerity dusted off their military gallantry and shamelessly sabotaged officers of lesser rank to get seats near the newcomers.
"You know," said a major, "I never knew before how much it can mean to a man just to sit across the table from a young woman who speaks his own language.
"After six weeks of Army life in Africa you forget there is another world with women in it as well as men."
The major's reaction was typical, but one elderly general merely gazed dourly at the feminine contingent and remarked:
"I don't know what's happening to war anyway. We never had anything like this before. Petticoat soldiers! Pass the potatoes."
The WAACs have one privilege denied male officers. They can eat with their military caps on, and they do.
How to introduce them has been something of a problem in Social-military etiquette. Fellow officers the first time usually burble out something like "Miss Smith, this is General Jones, er, er, I mean General Jones, uh, uh, meet Lt. Smith."
Both the nurses and the WAACs have been besieged with dinner invitations and offers of assistance.
The alert American press scored an initial scoop when two foreign correspondents took all five WAACs for their first dinner at a French restaurant. Army Air corps officers also were taken along after they begged to join the party and pledged they would pay for the food, buy the wine and get the correspondents a free airplane ride home after the war.
"Listen, if you fix me up with a date with that pretty little blond—the lieutenant with the dimples—I'll wrap you up a bomber right now," said one flier, "and what's more, I'll give you a private hangar to keep it in."
The WAACs will be assigned to headquarters duty, thus relieving male officers for combat duty.
The nurses, like the WAACs, already have sent out advance patrols to scour the city for stockings, which are as scarce as one-legged penguins.
"I'll never be happy again until we invade Japan," sighed one young nurse. "Then I'm going to buy a big box of silk worms and grow my own stockings."